Ottawa demands Meta end blackout of Canadian news due to wildfire danger

Ottawa demands Meta end blackout of Canadian news due to wildfire danger

Meta’s blocking of news ‘reckless’, says cabinet minister

By Barry Ellsworth

TRENTON, Canada (AA) - Canada demanded Friday that Meta end its blackout of Canadian news due to an ongoing emergency posed by wildfires.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, blocked Canadian news beginning this month to protest a new law that requires it and other internet companies to pay news outlets for using their content.

Residents in remote areas in the north have complained that they cannot access important information on evacuations as Canada experiences the worst wildfire season in its history, with more than 1,000 fires that have burned an area the size of Greece, to date.

More than 19,000 residents this week have had to flee the city of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories and 15,000 were ordered to evacuate late Friday in the province of British Columbia.

"What Meta is doing now is completely unacceptable,” said Transportation Minister Pablo Rodriquez, as reported by Western Standard news. “We see that due to this ban, people do not have access to information that is absolutely crucial. I demand that Meta reverse this decision.”

Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said in a social media post Friday that blocking wildfire news is putting lives at risk.

"Meta's reckless choice to block news ... is hurting access to vital information on Facebook and Instagram," she said. "We are calling on them to reinstate news sharing today for the safety of Canadians facing this emergency. We need more news right now, not less."

Meta said the criticism is unjust and a company spokesperson told CTV News by email that it activated the “Safety Check” feature that allows users to report that they are safe in the event of a natural disaster.

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